Category Archives: Spirituality

Adam is not organising a sex orgy…

Adam: healthy eating but alas no planned sex orgy

“So,” I said to Adam Taffler aka Adam Wilder aka etc etc, “you’re arranging some kind of sex orgy on top of some skyscraper near Canary Wharf?”

There was a pause with two big sighs. “No,” he said. “It’s a festival of human connection and intimacy and togetherness.”

And, indeed, the two-day event in London is called: TOGETHERNESS: AN INTIMATE FESTIVAL OF HUMAN CONNECTION.

We met at a Pret a Manger in Soho.

“I want,” Adam told me, “to make intimacy and human connection more central to our culture; I want to make it more accessible. Studies show our happiness comes from the quality of our relationships and not our bank balance. But our society isn’t very good at teaching us how to have good relationships.

“So the festival is about doing that. It has a whole load of workshops – everything from Listening Partnerships all the way through to Digital Dating Detox and Expanding Your Sexuality… all with some of the best teachers in the world.

“I’m really excited about it and, because I don’t think this stuff is visible enough in our culture, I want to do it somewhere that it’s symbolically really visible. So I’m doing it on 20th and 21st May on top of a skyscraper in Canary Wharf.”

“What if it rains?” I asked.

“It’s inside, on the top floor. … I’m glad you are eating some fruit there and blueberries and pomegranates. Pomegranate seeds are very good for you.”

“Oh dear,” I said. “Am I going to start farting or something?”

“Maybe,” said Adam. “Just maybe.”

Adam is the entrepreneur of the alternative

“The other day,” I told him, “my friend Mary from Manchester told me the budgie seed Trill used to have cannabis seeds in it.”

“That doesn’t surprise me at all,” Adam told me. “It’s very healthy.”

“I had this vision,” I said, “of spaced-out budgies.”

“You can’t get high on cannabis seeds,” he explained. “Believe me, I tried when I was younger.”

“Will there be lots of meat-eating at your festival?” I asked. “Or will it be right-on vegetarianism? Pigs are supposed to be very intelligent but their downfall is they taste so good. Slaughtering happy bouncy lambs IS slightly bizarre.”

“Well,” Adam replied, “I think it’s bizarre the way we do it in our culture and the mass farming side of it. My festival is going to be completely plant-based. All the food is going to be plant-based. That’s a way of saying ‘vegan’  which doesn’t sound so oppressive.

“I think intellect holds us back from having experiences which are really good for us. In my training as a Fool, I learned to trick people into doing things that stretches their comfort zone just a little bit and then you can stretch it more and more and more until, before they know it, they’re in a field with their nipples painted gold.”

“Any nudity at your festival?” I asked hopefully.

“No,” said Adam. “Fully clothed. Two days. Saturday and Sunday. I’ve got some of the best teachers from around the world. And there will be a Saturday night Cacao Dance Party, drug and alcohol free.”

“Cacao?” I asked.

“Some kids are using it as a stimulant but, basically, it’s a euphoric old strain of cocoa bean and, when you make it into a drink, it’s a mild stimulant. It is very gentle.”

“Why are you crowdfunding the festival?” I asked.

“I wanted to try it as a marketing exercise. Tickets have been selling really well but, basically, I want to put all my energy into the curation and execution of the festival instead of putting so much into the marketing like I have in the past and I’m hoping this will make it a bit easier. If we get the crowdfunding, it means we can do amazing stuff like get really good quality fixtures and fittings in there.

The Togetherness Festival – over 35 sessions over 2 days

“Tickets are £99 but, at the moment, through the crowdfunding, you can get a weekend pass for £79 – with access to over 35 sessions over two days with some of the best teachers in the world.”

“What happens,” I asked, “if you don’t reach the £10,000 crowdfunding target?”

“It’s all going ahead, it will just be a bit harder.”

”You’re an entrepreneur at heart,” I suggested.

“I don’t know about that, man,” Adam replied. “What I loved about the (music and open air) festival scene was the freedom. Helping people to get more emotionally naked.”

“You said ‘the festival scene’ as if you have given it up.”

“I don’t really like performing very much any more, John.”

“You prefer the organisational side?”

“I don’t even enjoy organising that much. I’d rather just be running sessions: teaching. I am moving forward as a practitioner and as a teacher. Whatever works to help people surrender to the moment. I’m training more as a practitioner in this field.”

“What field?”

“Human connection. Sexuality. What I find interesting is that sexuality is just the gateway to knowing ourselves better.”

“Are your Shhh Dating events still carrying on?”

I first met Adam at the 2011 Edinburgh Fringe when I asked him to juggle spaghetti

“Yes, but I’ve sold my other businesses. I sold my hot tub business and I’m just about to sell my shares in the Burns Night company as well. I felt, last year, I was doing too many things. I want to focus. I’m now really into the intimacy and connection work. I like working with people. When I was doing performance, it was all about working with people too.”

“No sex orgy, then,” I said.

“No!” Adam laughed. “The most sexy this festival gets is a session by Froukje van der Velde, who is going to teach ladies – and gents – how to tickle a yoni.”

“I’ve read the Kama Sutra,” I said. “A yoni is a vagina. You can’t fool me with posh words,”

“It’s a Sanskrit word,” said Adam. “Everything is fully-clothed. Froukje takes clay and shows people how to make a model of a yoni and, by the time they’ve made it, it goes a little bit hard and she shows people how they can stroke it.

“We are not taught this stuff at school, John. The sex education in school is terrible. I have a friend who teaches deaf children 11-17 and, in one class, she told them: You can ask me anything you want. And this boy asked: Why do women like it when men come on their faces? Nowadays, children learn sex through porn. It’s terrible.

“This festival is partly about sexuality; it’s partly about relationships. What I’m interested in is the quality of relationships, the quality of contact. That was what I was interested in in performing as well.”

“You want to be a guru,” I suggested.

“Not a guru,” Adam laughed. “Just someone who wants to share what he knows with other people. I went to India to see the hugging lady.”

“The hugging lady?” I asked.

Amma. She comes to the UK every year and hugs loads of people.”

“I’m Scottish,” I pointed out. “We don’t do hugging.”

“You should come to Alexandra Palace and have a hug,” Adam told me. “She is pretty remarkable. For the first three nights in India, I was down by the sea  every night, shouting into the sea: What the fuck is going on here? Why is everybody worshipping this lady? This is bullshit!”

“In India?” I asked.

Amma, the hugging saint of Kerala, was a young Cinderella

“In Kerala, in south India. After three days, a friend of mine told me: No. Go and sit as close to her as you can. I did and my experience changed. I started experiencing this… ‘Grace’ is the only thing I can call it. She is maybe 60-something.

“Her skin was darker than all her siblings. Her parents turned her into the Cinderella of the family and beat her and scolded her but locals kept coming to hear her sing and now she travels round the world and raises all this money. She’s really incredible. This sense of grace. It’s nice to sit next to a master who gives you a taste of something that expands your map of the world. That’s what I find interesting. Stretching maps.”

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Filed under Psychology, Sex, Spirituality

Promoter Adam Taffler: a man with some seriously alternative ambitions

Adam Taffler in London last week

Adam Taffler: man of many bright ideas

So, last week, I met up with admirably creative promoter and entrepreneur Adam Taffler. His company Adamotions has, in the past, been involved in creating Comedy in Cemeteries, Red Bastard masterclasses and Shhh Dating (speed dating without speaking).

“I went on an Enlightenment Intensive,” he told me.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“You sit opposite someone for three days and they say Tell me who you are? and you speak for five minutes, then they ring a bell and you switch over.”

“How does that last three days?” I asked.

“You do eight sessions of 5 minutes, then you have a little break, then another eight 5-minute sessions and then maybe have a little walk. You don’t talk outside of this thing. Some people pop and have an enlightenment experience, where they experience themselves and the world as unity. But, even if you don’t get that, you travel somewhere quite interesting because you are asking this question: What is the truest thing I can say about myself right now? 

“By the end, after three days, even if you don’t have an enlightenment experience, things feel really weird. I walked into the kitchen and felt like I was coming down off acid. The bench was wobbling. It was a good thing they weren’t serving pizza.”

“Where was this happening?” I asked.

“At a Retreat Centre in Devon.”

“Strange things happen in Devon,” I observed.

“It’s great out there,” said Adam.

“Are you going to start promoting these things yourself?” I asked.

“I don’t think so. But I am doing some dinosaur bone-making workshops next week.”

“Because?” I asked.

“Because I met a guy in Amsterdam.”

“Why does Amsterdam not surprise me as a location?” I asked.

“I went there to look at property with him,” Adam continued. “I was looking for somewhere to open a hot tub venture, because I did a hot tub venture in London last year. It was fantastic. Just a pop-up. It needs a home.”

“What was the point of the hot tub venture?” I asked.

Hot tubs held their attraction for Adam Taffler

Adam’s hot tubs last year were a hot ticket near the swans

“To give people an experience of… Well… actually, I started it as a restaurant and called it The Supper Tub. The idea was you sit in a hot tub and get delicious food. But the thing is people don’t really want to eat in a hot tub.

“What they want want to do is drink. So I set up this deck in Hackney Wick, by the canal. You sit there, music playing, swans and ducks swimming by and the waiter is bringing you cocktails. It was really lovely. I did it for six months. But it needed more of a home. So I went over to Amsterdam. It’s a really happening city. The whole north of Amsterdam is opening up like Hackney opened up ten years ago.”

“I wouldn’t,” I said, “think Amsterdam could open up any more. When I lived there briefly in the mid-1990s, everything was going on. There was hardcore sex, gun-running, hard drugs, drug-smuggling, diamond smuggling, everything you can imagine but it was basically a dull city. It was bankers and businessmen living in suburbia. And I was living off Haarlemmerstraat, near the middle of town.”

“That’s the thing,” said Adam. “You legalise everything and people just relax with it.”

“But you couldn’t find a hot tub location there?” I asked.

“No. So I asked the guy I was with: What else do you do? And he said: I make dinosaur bones.”

The skeleton of an idea: dinosaur bone making workshops

The skeleton of an idea: dinosaur bone making workshops

“Is there much demand,” I asked, “for artificial dinosaur bones?”

“More than you would think,” replied Adam. “He builds them for museums and stuff.”

“Are you telling me museums have fake dinosaur bones in them?”

“Some of them. But really he does workshops where kids can come along and build a whole velociraptor skeleton. That was the thing I was most inspired by.”

“What,” I asked, “do you do with a velociraptor skeleton once you’ve built it?”

“You can leave it there. Or the kids can take their bones home. Kids like to make stuff like that. Together, it looks pretty cool.”

“I imagine so,” I said.

“Yeah,” said Adam. “We are going to do some dino-skulls with adults. I’m just going to try it out. We’re going to have music with it.”

“You surely,” I asked, “have to take acid for this to work at its best?”

“Probably,” laughed Adam. “And then become one with the dinosaur. Have the Unity Experience and start stalking the bars of North London.”

“What have you really got me here to plug?” I asked.

Clowning in Nature with Dr Brown.”

“Where is it this year?”

“We’re going to Wales and doing nine days with him just outside Cardiff. He always wants to do longer and deeper. Ooh-err. That’s your type of sentence, isn’t it? We’ve got some pretty cool guest teachers lined up as well, but I can’t mention them yet. We’re doing a puppetry one as well with Iestyn Evans. He’s done stuff for CBeebies and Star Wars.

A previous Clowning In Nature group

Out of Clowning in Nature cometh Puppetry in Nature

Puppetry in Nature?”

“Yeah. Within Arts, you get an established orthodoxy about how you do things and the inspiration which took people to arrive at that orthodoxy is really good. That’s a really interesting place. But the place of orthodoxy can be quite staid.

“So the idea of Clowning in Nature and Puppetry in Nature is that we wanna take people into that space and discover something new. We want to see where the inspiration is coming from. We are not just teaching people This is how you do A, B, and C – We are opening up to new inspiration.”

“How long is Puppetry in Nature?” I asked.

“It’s a 7-day thing.”

“Does Puppetry in Nature not face a problem of wetness?” I asked. “Isn’t puppetry outside in the Welsh weather doomed to sogginess?”

Puppetry in The Lake is the really wet bit,” Adam replied. “We do a lot of stuff inside; we just do a few things outside. We have amazing farmhouses and yurts and saunas and food.”

“We love a good yurt,” I said.

“Would you like to live in a yurt?” Adam asked me. “How big is your garden?”

“Definitely yurt-sized,” I told him.

A yurt in Mongolia, not my back garden

I do love a yurt: this one is in Mongolia, not my back garden

“John,” Adam told me, “I am taking my hot tubs to some festivals this summer. You can come and we will put you up in a yurt. We will revere you as a god and you can have a whole hot tub to yourself. You can be yourself: just tell people some bad jokes every now and then.”

“When is this happening?” I asked.

“June. July. There is a great one called Wildfire. It’s an analogue festival – you have to give your phone in at the door.”

“I can’t do that,” I said. “I would need therapy. But yurts are always good news.”

“When I sold my first business,” said Adam, “a health food business called Of The Earth – I took a break and I joined the Nomadic Academy for Fools with Jonathan Kay and, after a year of that, I decided what I wanted to do was, with a couple of friends, buy a barge in the middle of the Thames, moored opposite the Houses of Parliament – a big lighter barge about 60 feet long, maybe 16 feet wide.

“We wanted to convert it into a home and venue and maybe, to be honest, a super-cool shag-pad. We did plans and the peak of it was probably in November 2010 or 2011 – we called it The November Project.

“I managed to get a yurt and loaded it on a dinghy and stuck it on the barge. I had twelve people from around the country – thinkers and improvisers – and we did foolish improvisations to work out what the boat was going to look like and how we were going to fund it and it was one of the most brilliant and wild things I’ve done – just having a yurt in the water so close to Parliament was just wonderful.”

“Did they not,” I asked, “object to alternative-thinking people being that close to Parliament in a floating yurt?”

“I think they were fine with it,” Adam told me. “But there were some dynamic issues between people which meant it didn’t really work. There is one guy who is still trying to do it.”

Adam juggling spaghetti in Edinburgh in 2011

Adam Taffler, juggling spaghetti for me at the Grassmarket in Edinburgh, in 2011

“Have you performed yourself recently?” I asked.

“There was a character called Colonel Shirley Bickerstaff – a trans-gender geriatric colonel. I was really inspired by Nina Conti – the ventriloquism. I decided he would have a vagina in a box and would come out and sing this very beautiful song about falling in love with the vagina in the box. It was a love song. I did a few shows. It was pretty good. That’s it, really.”

And it was.


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Comic Martin Soan on spirituality and Malcolm Hardee’s “Oowwerwerwouer”

Martin Soan in full jester garb last night

Martin Soan in his resplendent garb last night

Performance artist and comedian Martin Soan was richer than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in one thing this year – birthdays.

Her Majesty has two birthdays every year – her real one and her official one.

This year, Martin Soan had three.

He had a birthday party last Monday. He had his actual birthday on Wednesday.

And yesterday he had another birthday party, coinciding with the Queen’s official birthday.

The Queen decided to knight actor Tony Robinson yesterday.

A 60-year-old man ping-longs yesterday

A 60-year-old man ping-pongs yesterday

Martin decided to play ping-pong at home and then go down the pub and get pissed with his mates and neighbours.

Well into the evening, I had a chat with him. He is now 60 years old. He was wearing a jester’s outfit, given to him by fellow Greatest Show on Legs member Steve Bowditch. This was befitting as, the previous weekend, Martin had been created ‘official fool’ at the annual International Jesters’ Tournament at Muncaster Castle in the Lake District. He receives his annual salary in beer.

“So,” I asked him, “what is it like being 60 and drunk and dressed as a jester?”

“John,” he replied, “let me ask you this… Do you know about your spiritual side? Have you a spiritual side, John?”

“Well, I have a spiritual stomach,” I replied. “Some people might call me Buddha-like.”

Martin re-installs my pussy at Fleming Towers this morning

Martin pays homage to my pussy picture at Fleming Towers

“I have seen some of the pictures on your wall in your home, John,” persisted Martin, “and I would say you would have a spiritual side. But, a bit like Malcolm (Hardee, Martin’s deceased partner in the Greatest Show On Legs act), you are really reluctant to go to your spiritual side and talk to me and converse with me on a spiritual level. Exactly the same as Malcolm.

“Over all the years I knew him,” Martin explained, “I got Malcolm to talk about it twice. Now, you have some art on your wall that tells something about your spiritual side. Blog about that, John, blog about that.”

“Which pictures?” I asked, slightly taken aback.

“I don’t remember the bloody names of them,” replied Martin. “You know the ones I’m talking about: the eye, the…”

“The eye?” I asked.

“Well, there must be one with an eye,” said Martin. “I can’t remember them all.”

“Do you mean the cat with spectacles on?” I asked.

Martin Soan

The barely-glimpsed ship about to enter a living room

“Yes! Ah! Yes!” said Martin. “The cat… The ship coming through the house… What’s his name?”

Dominique Appia,” I said. “So what was Malcolm’s spiritual side?”

“Even though we were close all those years,” explained Martin, “and did all that stuff together, there were only a couple of times when he could actually say something to me, like Hello, mate. We done well, ‘aven’t we? He normally just went Oowwerwerwouer. A bit like you. You’re a bit Oowwerwerwouer.

“Am I?” I asked. “I’m Oowwerwerwouer?”

“Yeah, you are,” said Martin.

“I swear to God I’ve never gone Oowwerwerwouer in my life,” I told him.

“If people are close,” said Martin, “why not just embrace it? Malcolm had a tough time accepting that. Malcolm would go Oowwerwerwouer… So what do you say to that, John?”

“What was Malcolm’s spiritual side that you saw twice?” I asked.

The Greatest Show on Legs in their prime

Malcolm Hardee (left) – the spiritually repressed family man

Martin told me: “That he actually did have a wonderful family side to him and he did actually love me but he could never express it and that he…”

“I can’t blog that,” I said. “People will misunderstand because it sounds gay.”

Martin gave a shrug:

“Malcolm and me grew up together, we had loads of experiences together and, if I tell you them all, it just makes them sound petty, but we went through shit and we had a great time and there was a spiritual side to us that was like brothers. We were like brothers, but he would never admit to that.

“When we took acid or got stoned or something like that, he’d just go Oh no, I… No I just feel a bit off and… But a couple of times I got him off-guard and he said We did well, we did well.

“With Jim (comedian Boothby Graffoe) I can say Oh fuck, we did really well, man. We did that and We did that. I love you, guy – We did that! We did that together. We fucking did that! Malcolm would never say that and we did so much. He’d just go Oowwerwerwouer.”

“How did he go?” I asked.

“Oowwerwerwouer,” repeated Martin.

“It’s as if Malcolm was in the room,” I said.

“You are like that, John,” Martin told me. “You are like that, John. You crack naff jokes to escape what it is dealing with people.”

“Mmmm….” I said.

“Yes you do,” said Martin.

“I wasn’t saying No,” I said.

“I can say that,” said Martin. “You’re blogging about me and I can say whatever I want to make my blog that you’re doing about me more interesting.”

“You’re interesting to begin with,” I replied.

Another comedian not going to the Edinburgh Fringe this year

Martin Soan says he is spiritual but is not interesting

“No I’m not.”

“Yes you are.”

“No I’m not,” Martin repeated. “Who’s interesting?”

“That bloke with one eye who killed two policewomen,” I said.

“Yeah,” conceded Martin. “He might be interesting.”

“So what’s your spiritual side, then?” I asked.

“My spiritual side,” said Martin, “is that I love rain, I like moss and I love mist… I did manage to take Malcolm on a little walk once and we did see that side. He did actually go Oh yeah, OK, that’s pretty cool… My spiritual side is all to do with getting out there and being in the wind and the rain.

“I loved today. I love today. It’s my birthday party, it rained and I loved it. Absolutely loved it. I loved the wetness… No, I don’t love the wet. I love the effort you have to put into protecting yourself against getting wet and cold. That’s what I love. I love sitting there and being cosy and looking at wet because I know I’ve protected myself. That’s really significant. Really significant. So tents… I love sitting in that tiny environment and I can control that tiny environment and remain dry. It’s an amazing feeling. I love being surrounded by weather and being cosy.

Martin Soan – a man who likes all things natural

“My glorious, absolutely top fave moment was when I went to the Welsh coastline with Vivienne (Martin’s wife) and it was raining and I had a tape of Keith Jarrett where it’s just him improvising on piano.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous: very classical and free, not just pinned-down by notes that you have to play, so he’s interpreting. And the rain was going against the window of the car and I put the tape on.

“It was the best ever, man. It was the best ever. The best ever.”


Martin Soan will be performing at the Edinburgh Fringe with The Greatest Show On Legs during The Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on 23rd August — and I will be talking to comedians in five shows at the Fringe – So It Goes – John Fleming’s Comedy Blog Chat Show, 19th-23rd August.

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